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UX Tip #100 Let users make mistakes during usability testing


Occasionally, things don't go to plan. Often, they yield entirely unexpected results - and the world of UX is no different.

During usability testing, it is tempting to stop or alter the test when we see users experience difficulty. However, it is incredibly important that you resist this temptation!

We, as human beings, naturally want to help people when they’re in need, but since the goal of usability testing is to find and solve the difficulties that users experience, allowing these situations where the users fails to do what they want is actually really useful.

In these situations:

  • Avoid tipping the user off to their error.
  • Remember to keep your tone neutral.
  • Watch your body language and facial expressions.

If the user does stray off onto a different path than expected, instead of redirecting them to finish the task, ask them questions like,

"Why did you navigate to this page?"

"Did you anticipate that you would end up here?"

"What is it that you hoped to accomplish?"

Remember not to make the user feel uncomfortable about sharing their thoughts, otherwise they may limit the honesty in their answers, or attempt to tell you what they think you want to hear, and this impression management behaviour can ruin your research.

By allowing them to make mistakes, we are given the opportunity to ask them why they did what they did in order to understand their rationale. When we understand the motivation behind their actions, we can design to change it - so long as that is a business requirement!



Wow - that was number 100 of our handy UX Tips!  Don't worry though, we've got plenty more up our sleeve, as well as loads more useful content to help you and your organisation successed in the digital world; from User Experience best practices, to Web Development insights and business strategies. Subscribe to our Blog now and we'll send you a quick email each time we publish a new article.


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